Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years
Whoever came up with this quote was definitely on to something. Gardens are special peaceful spaces with restorative qualities that can work wonders when we are stressed and under pressure.
Stress is a worldwide 21st century problem that can cause physical problems such as higher blood pressure, muscle tension and digestive problems, while long-term stress can lead to serious health issues including depression and anxiety.
Gardeners’ World presenter and Thrive Ambassador Mark Lane explains how gardening has helped him.
There’s growing evidence that gardening can benefit our mental health, an important consideration at a time when the NHS is stretched and one in four adults are experiencing mental illness.
Research in Sweden*, for example, found that the more people used their gardens, the fewer incidents of stress they suffered.
A report in the Mental Health Journal* cited gardening as being able to reduce stress and improve mood, with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Gardeners themselves agree:
- Out of 317 people who took part in table-top gardening sessions run by Thrive across Berkshire, Hampshire and south Oxfordshire, 80 per cent reported better mental health as a result, with 93 per cent saying they had improved their confidence and motivation.
- Across the pond in Philadelphia*, 144 gardeners were asked for the reasons they did it and mental health was second to recreation as the most important factors.
While gardens can be relaxing, they can also be places where our efforts result in a real sense of achievement, boosting confidence and self-esteem.
There’s also good evidence that just looking at a green space has positive effects on people’s mental health, helping them relax and de-stress.
Gardening has so much potential for people with defined mental health needs, offering an enormous range of activities and options, more so than any other type of therapeutic activity.
Thrive works with people aged from 14 to 94 with life-long or long-term mental and physical health needs, as well as those recovering from illness and accidents.
Our Horticultural Therapists design gardening programmes that are tailored to individuals’ needs, working with them to set goals that will improve their health and wellbeing. We call this process social and therapeutic horticulture (STH).
STH and similar green care interventions can:
- Reduce depression, anxiety and stress-related symptoms
- Alleviate the symptoms of dementia, such as aggressive behaviour
- Increase the ability to concentrate and engage
- Reduce reliance on medication, self-harming behaviour
Sweden stress reduction –
Stigsdotter, U. A. (2005) Urban green spaces: Promoting health through city planning. In: Inspiring Global Environmental Standards and Ethical Practices, The National Association of Environmental Professionals’, NAEP, 30th Annual Conference, Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Stigsdotter, U. A. and Grahn, P. (2004) A garden at your workplace may reduce stress. In: Dilani, A (ed.), Design and Health III – Health Promotion through Environmental Design, Research Centre for Design and health, Stockholm, Sweden, 147-157
Mental Health Review Journal, 2013: ‘A review of gardening-based interventions for people experiencing mental health difficulties reported that benefits include a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety and an increase in attentional capacity and self-esteem. Key benefits include emotional benefits such as reduced stress and improved mood.’
Philadelphia gardeners –
Blair, D., Giesecke, C G and Sherman, S: A Dietary Social and Economic Evaluation of the Philadelphia Urban Gardening Project, The Journal of Nutrition Education, 23.
Table-top gardening in SE England –
Thrive Sow & Grow programme 2017